What do you call a bad blockbuster remake of a bad French blockbuster starring a former Saturday Night Live star and a bevy of living Brazilian mannequins? A gimmick.
For a $9 flat-rate, “Taxi” can’t inspire more than a titter at Jimmy Fallon’s incompetence and Queen Latifah’s “ghetto” sass. Jim Story’s “Taxi” is supposed to be a buddy movie in which the audience and characters share 90 minutes of laughing at idiotic antics. The result? Humor as esoteric as the joke a cab driver screams into his hands-free cell phone (only without the novelty value.)
When the film begins, it seems to be more of a music video, and a bad one at that, than legitimate cinema. The audience is treated to three minutes of the “thrilling” trek of a bike messenger weaving through New York streets and subways, most of which is conspicuously computer animated, while a derivative R&B song shrieks from the background. To everyone’s surprise, the scene ends in the bike messenger headquarters, where we learn that the cyclist is Belle (Latifah, who remains mildly entertaining after “Chicago” glory).
The lame ying to her mediocre yang is Officer Washburn (Fallon, who’s usually at his comic apex when laughing at himself, which he doesn’t here). Poor Washburn’s story begins with a botched drug bust, after which he plows his car into a corner deli. As the laughing stock of his police department, he’s doomed to wander the city, sans auto, with nothing but a hoodie and his badge. Shockingly, when he hears of a nearby bank robbery he calls for a cab to get to the scene of the crime. And what newly licensed speed-monger cabbie is there to apprehend him? None other than Her Highness.
The typical cop movie drivel that follows melts away your worries, cares, and intelligence with its lukewarm humor. After hissing “You eee-diot” to her moronic baggage handler, Gisele Bundchen and her army of supermodel bank robbers storm Manhattan with their delicious larceny. Boasting little more than sexy grins and sultry struts, their acting panache isn’t exactly in the Stanislavsky stratosphere. They do manage to heat things up while zooming around midtown in a red BMW (with Fallon and Latifah in close pursuit). After the Brazilian baddies escape the moronic duo, the Queen’s tricked-out cab is apprehended by the NYPD as evidence in the robbery case, which Fallon is rightfully removed from.
Wanting to mend things with his hottie lieutenant (Jennifer Esposito), Washburn heads out to catch the bad girls himself — with the help of a certain Belle. What follows is an hour of mediocre antics and boring plot twists that makes “The Fast and the Furious” look inventive.
Any highlights? Fallon, moping around in quasi-hipster attire, lives next to his booze-guzzling mother (ridiculously, Ann-Margret, who’s probably the comic genius of the film.) There’s also a scene where Fallon and Latifah accidentally inhale massive amounts of laughing gas and exchange “I’m-so-wasted” lines in a James Earl Jones-tone. In a movie that offers little more than shiny car chases and leggy, pouting bank robbers, do you really expect anything more?
If so, to quote Bundchen, “You eee-diot.”